Politics, Religion, Social Media & How Great Writers Change the World
The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. We are closing in on an election and it is tough to remain indifferent, but no one ever said the life of a professional author was easy.
When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?
All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on others in our social network to help us, to share, RT and tell people about our books.
If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.
What Brand are We After Anyway?
We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.
So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.
Are we running for office or wanting to sell books?
Beware–The Genie Doesn’t Go BACK in the Bottle On-Line
One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line, is, once it is out there, we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?
What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.
I was friends with a writer who had a decent little blog following. He suddenly decided to blog about a topic so volatile, it had sparked riots across the U.S. I suppose he thought his readers would be level-headed and rational when they read his post, but they were anything but. People were deeply hurt and divided, and this writer was inundated with long, emotional, angry e-mails.
His readers felt they could trust him for a certain kind of content and then he took a weird left turn that left them all feeling icky. This writer spent months repairing the damage, and I’m unsure if the harm could ever be completely undone. This writer had never expected this post to be a big deal, yet, once he hit Publish, the genie was out of the bottle and there was no putting it back.
The genie also has a way of landing collateral damage. There were very angry people who knew we were friends who made it their mission to also come after me. I spent days shutting down trolls and hate mail for a post I never even wrote and would never have, in a million years, approved of.
We need to remember WE ARE NOT ALONE. Our actions have consequences and sometimes they can inflict collateral damage. Not only did this writer’s platform and brand suffer, but friendships were damaged as well.
Social Media is a Giant Cocktail Party, Yet Not
If you like kittens then you are a moron!
Did that change your mind?
People who like dogs are idiots. Americans spend way too much money on stupid brainless pets when they could be spending it on rainbows.
Did that make you want to give up your pets and spend money other ways? No? What? You didn’t like being called names and told what you love and value is stupid?
Here is the thing, most of that hater junk floating around Facebook is not going to change hearts and minds. If that is what we want to do, win people over, then ranting and name-calling is a faulty plan that makes us look like insensitive jerks.
One of the main problems with social media, is that it is like a cocktail party…yet it isn’t. We have all the expectations of a cocktail party, but there is a computer between us. Most of us would not show up to a party and start ranting and name-calling and beating people up with our beliefs.
On social media, we tend to gravitate to people who love the same things we do—writing, books, kittens, dogs—but that does not naturally presume we are all homogenous on the political and religious front. At a cocktail party we would also gravitate to people who liked talking about the same things—writing, books, dogs, kittens—but we would have the benefit of body language to know when we were hurting others or treading into dangerous water with the conversation.
Remember social media is social, but we need to take extra care what we post. We don’t have the same social litmus tests on-line to know when we are alienating others. Often people won’t confront us directly. They will unfriend, unfollow or hide our feed, and that isn’t going to help us eventually sell books. Additionally, computers don’t afford the same social filters. Arguments can easily get completely out of control and become a Frankenstein that takes out our entire platform.
I remember an instance where some person commented on something political on Twitter and a popular rapper happened to see it and take offense. This rapper then mobilized his platform of millions against said tweeter and the poor woman had to get off Twitter and practically go into Witness Protection. Social media is like a loaded gun. Handle with extreme care.
Great Writers Use Story to Change the World
Every time I blog about politics and social media, I hear the outcry about how writers have an obligation to change the world, how we should be doing more than writing about vampires that sparkle. I completely agree. But posting hateful Facebook cartoons are for regular people who are not gifted with the creative power of prose.
Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to highlight the plight of the immigrant workers who were being exploited. He used story to highlight wage slavery, corruption and horrific practices (mainly) in the meatpacking industry. This book led to the formation of the FDA and was one of the vanguards for social programs for the poor and better treatment for workers.
To Kill a Mockingbird took on racism in the court system and paved the way for equal rights. Animal Farm was Orwell’s commentary on Stalin and he showed through story how the corruption of leadership was what would poison any revolution. Brave New World, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1984, Catcher in the Rye the list goes on. THIS is how real writers change the world.
Star Trek didn’t come on TV and rant about how all races should work together and women were more than secretaries. Star Trek showed that world. Gene Roddenberry put the world he envisioned in story form to change hearts and minds in a nonthreatening way, and he did it. Joss Whedon has dedicated his screenwriting career to busting apart stereotypes.
SHOW Don’t TELL
Story is very powerful because it harnesses empathy and it draws readers into being part of a narrative. Audiences/readers are part of something, not being attacked, so they are more likely to be convicted and have a change of heart. We see characters who shatter our preconceived ideas, we get attached and then BOOM! change.
In my opinion, Terminator 2 did more to shatter stereotypes of weak females than a hundred angry protests. We saw Sarah Connor, were mesmerized by her strength, her power, how a mother had been utterly redefined. She didn’t wait on a man or wear lip gloss. She learned to use a freaking AR-15 to defend her son and the save world she loved.
AND WE LOVED IT!
Characters like Sarah Connor opened the door for strong female heroes, and the more society was exposed to these daring dames, the more we grew to love and accept them in these new roles. Now we see women in more and more professions that once were “Men Only.” We now see women on SWAT teams and flying fighter jets, and writers helped that happen.
Leave the misspelled Photoshop rants to amateurs and regular people. We are not like them. We are not mere mortals. We are writers, and, when we want to change the world, it changes.
Protect the Brand
Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?
I hope you guys DO change the world. Write books that change hearts and minds and make the world better then use social media to get people to read those books. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.
For those of you who want more instruction of how to blog and use your blog to build a supportive community for your work, my October blogging class is now open. It’s two months long and takes you from idea to launch and can be done at your own pace and on your own time.
So what are your thoughts? Concerns? What great works of literature do you feel did the most to change society? What are your favorites?
I LOVE hearing from you guys! And since we have a guest today, every comment counts DOUBLE in the contest.
To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.